The most troubling part of Mr. Honan's experience was that he
was the prey of seemingly novice, (lower-case "a") anonymous
hackers who were able to compromise his various accounts by piecing
together bits of publicly accessible personal information and
deceiving customer-service representatives with startling ease.
Anyone with even a little tech savvy (and flexible morals) could've
Inexplicably, this high-profile hacking has not affected the
public perception of cloud computing.
This is not, however, due to shrewd PR work.
At a time when internet users are increasingly willing to store
sensitive personal and professional information in the cloud, most
of them remain clueless about what it is .
In a laughable paradox, the ineffectiveness of cloud-computing
marketing has momentarily saved the industry from a massive
customer backlash. The cloud became popular without people even
recognizing they were using it, and the industry's selling point
hasn't suffered because it wasn't strong to begin with.
If the cloud ever wants to have a recognizable marketing
position -- let alone one that resonates with customers --
companies need to be educators as much as providers and pull users'
heads out of the sand.
"Most people don't know what the hell it is ," Mr. Honan said in
an interview. "People who are aware of it think of it as this very
secure, easy great way to keep . . . data somewhere." He adds,
"It's pretty safe, but it's certainly not as safe as your owning
your own data."
Just weeks after Mr. Honan's supposedly highly publicized
attack, Wakefield Research released the results of a survey about
cloud computing conducted from Aug. 2 to 7 that some could find
troubling. A majority of the 1,000 American adults surveyed (54%)
claimed to never use the cloud, even though 95% of respondents did.
More than half (51%) of respondents incorrectly believed that bad
weather could interfere with cloud services. And 17% said they lied
about knowing what the cloud was while on a first date. (No insight
was provided as to why 17% of respondents go on such pitiful first
Considering this data, it would be easy to lay the blame for
breaches on users who fail to educate themselves about the inherent
security risks of the cloud, thereby leaving themselves susceptible
to identity theft or, in Mr. Honan's case, cyber-sadists looking to
ruin someone's day for lulz.
Prominent cloud-solution companies -- especially Amazon and Apple, whose systems were exposed for
having gaping security holes -- won't be able to defend their
market share going forward unless they're willing to admit security
shortcomings, provide more robust security checks and confront
users for being reckless with their data.
"There's all kinds of minefields here," said Dave
Berkowitz, VP at digital marketing agency 360i. "Security is a
very real issue, and it's often so technical that it's hard to
Cloud marketing has never so much as mentioned security. Rather,
it's been positioned as a simple solution to digital clutter.
Granted, encouraging customers to host less personal information
and data in the cloud is antithetical to the industry's obvious
goal, but not mentioning any of the inherent security issues of
storing data in the cloud is perhaps irresponsible.
The most memorable cloud computing marketing campaign so far has
been Windows 7's "To the cloud!"
The ads made little attempt to explain the foreign concept of
cloud computing. The message was more along the lines of this:
"It's so tough to get the husband and kids to sit still for a
family portrait, AM I RIGHT, MOMS?! Want to know my secret, though?
That's right, the cloud!"
But the luster is wearing off. Gartner security analyst John
Pescatore said cloud computing is quickly approaching a slide into
a "trough of disillusionment," as users are no longer enamored with
the new service. It is vital for the industry, entering this
period, to improve its security measures and educate customers of
The scales of personal privacy have been permanently tipped
toward cavalierly providing personal information online. It's less
than safe, but that 's the reality of our unreal digital world. In
light of this, the cloud is both a threat and a savior.
Take Mr. Honan for instance. The cloud ruined his digital life.
Days later, the cloud enabled him to retrieve almost all the data
Both those things could happen to just about every other
internet user. Problem is , most don't even know that .